A Religion of Peace?
In the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on July 28, in the first ever speech given by an American president to the African Union, Barrack Obama said, “Many of these groups claim the banner of religion, but hundreds of millions of African Muslims know that Islam means peace.” Though that may be true for millions of Muslims, for one Muslim cleric, it was not. This is his story:
Tofik* grew up attending Islamic schools and rose to the position of an imam in his East African village. Several deeply personal revelations brought him to faith in Christ, at the risk of his life.
Tofik trained to become an imam for 24 years at an Islamic madrasa school in Africa. “In school, I only learned about Islam,” he said. “Parts of our teaching were about destroying Christianity. So we did what we learned, by attacking Christians once we finished our training.” He said he was taught that Christians are bad people. He and the other students were also encouraged to steal from and kill non-Muslims. “Our teachers would tell us every time there was a new church in town, and we were told to go and attack the people and destroy the church. So that’s what we did,” Tofik said. “We beat them, attacked the church and burned their Bibles.”’
Tofik was later selected by the local mosque to be trained in Saudi Arabia for further Islamic studies. After finishing his education in Saudi Arabia, he returned to become an imam in his village. He led the construction of 16 mosques in his area. He also imposed a rule—no village leaders or visitors could preach Christianity in his town.
Visions of Jesus
One night, in the midst of his zeal for Islam, his journey to Christ unexpectedly began. “There was an incident in 2002 where I had a vision from the Lord early in the morning around 3 a.m.,” he said. “In the vision, I saw Jesus very clearly telling me to follow Him.”
“My wife asked me what happened in my dream because I woke up very startled, and when I explained it to her, she was scared and said, ‘We are going to be infidels, so we need to pray.’” He told her which Quranic verses Jesus told him to read in his dream and that each verse specifically instructs the reader to follow and believe in Jesus.
When he returned to sleep, Tofik immediately had another vision of Jesus. “Jesus appeared saying ‘It’s Me, follow Me. When you follow Me you will pay a price, there will be persecution in your life, but in the end, you will be victorious. I am with you.’ ”
His wife and children were reluctant to accept the idea of following Jesus, but Tofik could not ignore the visions of Jesus, and he began attending church. After attending his first church service, Tofik asked to meet the leaders. Initially, they were suspicious of his motives, knowing his reputation as one of the most influential Islamic leaders in the area.
“I told them about my dreams and everything else, so they accepted me and prayed for me,” he said. “I wanted to show my change externally, so I stopped wearing Islamic styled clothes. The news of my attending church spread quickly back home and many people started to cry, thinking of me as ‘as good as dead,’ because in Islam when you convert to another religion people receive it that way.”
His tribe was especially angry over his decision to follow Christ. “They reacted by coming to my home saying, ‘this brother is dead.’ In our culture, when someone dies, their property is shared. So they destroyed my house, setting it on fire, and they took my cattle, and the remainder of my property,” he said. “They then falsely accused me of burning another house, so I was jailed and taken to court. It was only in the court process that the witnesses proved their dishonesty by having contradicting testimonies.”
After being released from jail, Tofik helped bring more than 200 people to faith in Jesus. “The Bible became my weapon. I traveled many places to preach and teach about the Christian faith… I planted a church right in the compound where I live and many people decided to follow Christ—as a result, local villagers were upset. So again, they attacked me physically and burned my house.”
“The attackers assumed I was dead, so they threw me into the compound,” he said. “Then they looted the small kiosk I owned and proceeded to loot and burn my children’s properties. They said they have killed the lead figure and now our area is free of his activities. They started shouting and singing.”
Tofik said initially he wanted to retaliate; his dreams persuaded him otherwise. “The voice of Jesus himself spoke to me in my dreams about persecution, so I knew it was going to come and was ready,” Tofik said. “For those who destroyed my household, I was initially involved in prosecuting them at court, but later I said ‘no’ and chose to forgive them and leave it in the hands of the Lord, so the people were released.”
“Persecution isn’t all bad, it has some good parts,” he explained. “We need to start by loving people. We need to love them and show them love. In an Islamic context, we cannot just see each other when we have need of support. We need to always socialize with them,” Tofik said. “We need to be patient and slowly they will come to faith in Christ.”
Source: World Watch Monitor
Father, we stand in awe of Your call to Tofik and others raised in the Muslim faith to turn to You. And, we thank You for the love You have given him to courageously enter into a relationship with those around him, even at the risk of persecution. We pray for the work of Your Spirit in their lives as he shares the gospel of Jesus with them, that many in East Africa might indeed come to faith in Christ. We pray for protection over his family and for provision of home and food and work in ways that make it clear to all that it has come from Your hand, so that all “will come and declare [Your] righteousness to a people yet to be born; indeed, [You have] accomplished it!” (Ps. 22:31). In the name of Jesus, who is building His church in East Africa, Amen!